Alpaca Racks, Angletech, GTS, Miracle mirrors, Mirr, Park Tools, Planet Bike, Purple Sky flags, Schwalbe Marathon Plus, Shimano SPD, Sportster, Spyder, Superflash Turbo Lights, T-Cycle, T-Cycle Adjustomatic Bottle Mount, TerraTrike Tandem Pro, unobtanium
During the summer of 2021, Mrs. Manor and I came to a stunning realization: we’re both getting old. I was then 67, she was 74—seven years older—and as is the norm between actual men and women—whatever those are–not as strong and fast as me. Riding our TerraTrike Sportsters, a very nice trike TerraTrike no longer makes, I would have to ride much more slowly to stay with her. She’d get a pretty good workout, me, not so much.
Why no more Sportsters? It was TerraTrike’s speediest machine for many years. My best guess is they replaced it with the GTS, which appears not quite as quick as the Sportster, and introduced the Spyder, among the fastest trikes on the market, at the same time. In any case, the new trikes are pretty nifty, but our Sportsters work very well and will likely last our lifetimes and can then be bronzed and put on some relative’s mantle. Back to the Tandem Pro.
Why don’t I just go faster and too bad for Mrs. Manor? I’ve always detested 5’8,” 150 pound, eternally 20-something, color coordinated bicycling snobs who sniff at anyone not riding a consistent 40 MPH on a $12,000 dollar, 13 ounce wonderbike made of unobtanium. Of course such people have to have what passes for a seat surgically removed from their nether regions after a lengthy ride, but on the bright side, their self-torture of that part of the body pretty much prevents them from passing on the “witlessly and unjustifiably arrogant” gene, so there’s that. The gene pool is messy enough without having to deal with them.
My reasons were more selfish: there is no one on Earth with whom I would rather do things. I even accompany her to the fabric store, which because I sew—crudely, to make man stuff–is not so much a betrayal of toxic masculinity as one might imagine. Also, we’re getting older (did I already say that? I can’t remember…). Who knows how much time we have left together? Besides, not only do I love her madly, I really, really like her too. She married me, because as she put it at the time: “you aren’t scum.” She’s a hopeless romantic.
So what to do? There was a viable solution: the TerraTrike Tandem Pro. It has a neat independent pedaling system, so I can propel the tandem as fast as I can/like, and she can contribute as much as she can. Actually, to keep her from having to spin too fast, we have to engage in a bit more careful gear selection than on a solo trike, but that’s no problem, just an adjustment.
The problem was Terra Trike, which builds them in Michigan, was having trouble getting parts due to Covid, etc. Particularly, they couldn’t get wheels, which they get from a supplier only about 15 minutes away, so we had to order a Tandem Pro from the nearest and most complete and experienced dealer, Angletech in Colorado Springs, planning on getting it at the end of April, 2022. That worked out pretty much as we planned, and on the day we chose to drive down—seven hours one way–the wind was horrendous, northern Colorado roads were washboard awful, but it was warm and sunny, so overall, a great and happy day. Mrs. Manor was excited, which is always fun.
We were able to get in a single ride before bad weather, including a spring blizzard, struck, but as is always the case with a new machine, the first few rides are mostly about getting everything dialed in. It’s twice as much adjusting on a tandem. When we were considering the tandem, I tried to research it on the Internet, but there was no in depth, independent, review available. Now, after having done all the dial-in rides and several others, here it is.
Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s about $8250 dollars. Before you reach for the heart and blood pressure pills, consider it’s ridiculously easy these days, and not because of inflation, to spend far more than that on a two-wheeler. Trikes—recumbents in general—tend to cost more than two-wheelers, but that’s because there are far fewer made, and those are pretty much hand assembled. They share parts like tires, chains, gears, cranks, pedals, derailleurs, and various nuts and bolts with uprights, but everything else can’t be bought in large, money saving quantities. I was pleased to learn Terra Trike does have a 10% military discount, and I took advantage of that.
American garages are loaded with lonely two wheelers of all shapes and sizes, mostly collecting dust. Buying a trike you’ll ride all the time, not only because it’s fun, but it’s actually comfortable, is priceless, and it won’t be collecting dust. Most trikes are high quality, sturdy machines that can last a lifetime with proper care, and the Tandem Pro is no exception.
The TP actually cost quite a bit more than the stock machine because we added quite a few necessities, such as Shimano SPD pedals with clips on one side, and the other without so friends and family without biking shoes can try it.
We also added a Terra Trike seat bag for each seat. They’re just the right size for training rides. At the rear, we run three Planet Bike taillights, all Superflash Turbo models. To mount them on the bag, I just sewed a strip of common nylon webbing to the bag (man stuff). The red light is mounted on a T-Cycle Purple Sky flag and flagpole. T-Cycle makes the highest quality, best-designed and most useful accessories for trikes and two-wheelers on the market. They can be pricey, but you certainly get what you pay for, and no one else makes anything as good. The light clamps to a neat rubber light mount on the pole, and the flag is anchored in a T-Cycle flag mount, which holds the pole securely and keeps it from rotating in the wind. Why three lights and a flag? People are used to seeing two-wheelers, but recumbents are lower to the ground, not as common, and might not register. The strobing lights are very bright and eye-catching, and I want people to have every chance to see us and realize what we are.
Mounting a computer and mirror can be tricky with recumbents, and it’s particularly tricky with the Tandem Pro. We solved that problem with the TP and our Sportsters with T-Cycle Cockpit Vertical Mounts, which allow a wide range of latitude in mounting. We opted for the Planet Bike Protégé 9 computer. I’ve had very bad luck with wireless computers, particularly Cateye products. The Protégé 9 is inexpensive, easy to install, reliable, has all the features we need, and has solid mounts for computer and sensor. We use Mirrycle mirrors. They’re inexpensive and the best made. If any part wears out—that’s never happened with us—there are even more inexpensive parts kits. They’re infinitely adjustable, particularly when combined with T-Cycle mounts.
One accessory you can see in a number of photos in this article is the T-Cycle Adjustomatic Bottle Mount. It’s a brilliant design that fits standard water bottle mount spacing, but mounts one or two bottle cages at various heights and angles. We use inexpensive but strong Zefal cages. They work perfectly with many trikes.
The TP uses linkage steering, which is smooth and very stable. Our Sportsters have direct steering; the bars are directly attached to the wheels, so steering is very fast and transmits a great deal of “road feel” to the rider. Even think about turning, and you’re turning–fast. Many trikes have small turning circles; not the TP. Linkage steering is almost like power steering in a car. It’s very smooth, but the TP has a big turning circle. It’s wider than many common streets, though swerving out into a driveway at the beginning or end of the u-turn will do the trick.
I produced the dual photo above to illustrate something else about the TP: the cockpit is tight, and more so on ours, because we added trigger shifters to match those on our Sportsters. The standard TP has friction shifters mounted on the bar ends. You can also see it’s necessary to angle the brake levers inward to avoid striking the tires at the limits of steering. That’s also why the vertical mount was necessary. I had to experiment with bar angles, accessory mounts, the angle of the shifters and brakes to make things work. For different sized people, all of those adjustments would obviously be different. It might be nicer to have the front wheels a few inches farther apart.
We added Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, which are a bit pricey, but are the most rugged, puncture resistant around, and they track and ride well. We’d rather ride than spend our time fixing flats, and the Marathon Plus have done that for us. We’re running 20” X 1.75” tires, but plan to go with 1.5” tires when the current three wear out. I’m not a small guy—6’/220—and my knuckles have only about an inch of clearance from the tires. Getting used to the “upside down” mounting of the brake levers takes a little time. The Avid BB7 disc brakes are, as usual, powerful and effective, though it’s not possible to loft the rear wheel as one can with a solo trike.
You can see two other items of interest in this photo: T-Cycle Seat Strut Clamps and the low mounting of the rear derailleur. The clamps replace the “grenade pins” commonly used with trikes. They allow more precise adjustment, and make everything stiffer, theoretically transferring more motive power to the chain. Twenty-inch wheels impose some limitations—I’ll discuss that shortly—but no, the derailleur cage never strikes the ground.
The TP has two separate lengths of chain, and yes, when chain replacement time rolls around, it will be pricey, as we’ll need 4+ lengths more than a two-wheeler. The captain’s (front rider/driver) position has only a single chainwheel; all the shifting is done behind the front seat:
The TP has a unique independent pedaling system that allows either rider to coast while the other pedals. While it’s possible to synchronize both riders, I’ve yet to see any real advantage in doing that with the IPS. One would think with all that chain, all those idlers, and an extra chainwheel the drivetrain would be noisy, but it’s smooth and quiet.
In this photo you can also see the neat mechanism that allows one to separate the frame into two parts for easier transport. The shift cable for the rear derailleur separates—that’s the small black coupler below the frame tube—and as with any chain, one simply separates the master link in the back chain. This Park Tool chain link plier removes and reattaches master links.
Terra Trike provides a sturdy wrench to loosen and tighten the couplers. It took me only about 15 minutes to reassemble the trike the first time. It will be much faster and more efficient in the future.
Alpaca makes a neat 1500 Tadpole 2 hitch mount carrier. It works with standard 2″ trailer hitch mounts. The TP in two pieces works well with that rack. The front wheels are mounted as usual on one side of the rack, and by turning the rear wheel and back of the tandem parallel with the long axis of the vehicle–seat to the rear–the rear of the TP fits on the other side. One straps all three wheels in place as usual, and using a bit of padding on the open ends of the frame—pipe insulation works well–the strap and clamp meant for the rear wheels of solo trikes works to hold those ends in place.
Before we get to the riding experience, two more problems solved. A repair stand for a solo trike is a bit short for a tandem. I solved that problem with an inexpensive roller stand, commonly used for carpentry and other workshop chores. Removing the roller, I drilled the stand to add another bolt, shaped a bit of hardwood to fit the main tube, added a bit of yoga mat cushioning with contact cement, and it’s strong enough to handle the length and weight—70+ pounds.
The front seat provided an interesting problem. The mounting arms are those that fit TerraTrike’s more or less complete line of trikes, but the TP has much narrower seat stays. It wouldn’t make much financial sense to produce different seat frames solely for the TP, a low volume trike in a low volume industry, so TerraTrike designed the sort of T-mount you see in the photo. The problem is when tightening the bolts on each side, you end up warping/bending in the outside arms of the mounts. I had two aluminum spacers lying about and by chance, they fit perfectly, allowing one to tighten everything up without bending. They’re cheap and available at any Home Depot or similar store. You can see the seat strut clamps in the photo too.
Riding: The trike rides smoothly, which is partly due to the relatively wide and relatively low volume, low-pressure tires. I’m running 60 pounds in tires with a 70 pound maximum. It has no active suspension, but the stock seats are very comfy, and the long wheelbase all but eliminates the somewhat harsher ride of our aluminum frames Sportsters. As I previously mentioned, the drivetrain is smooth and quiet.
The drivetrain has a triple chainwheel—the stoker (rear seat rider/passenger) pedals it–and a 10 speed cassette for a total of 30 possible gear combinations. In our rolling, high desert Wyoming town, we seldom need the smallest chainwheel, but it’s comforting to have. With no gear indicators on the trigger shifters, the captain has to shift by feel (two way communication helps), and the long shifter cable requires shifts with authority, otherwise it takes a little time for the intention to get to the derailleur. It’s not hard to do, but does take concentration.
Unlike most solo trikes, the TP does not have an adjustable boom. There are short, medium and long booms available from the factory, which one specifies when ordering. As long as the dealer knows what they’re doing, it’s not a problem. Kelvin and crew at Angletech know what they’re doing. Both seats have fore and aft adjustment holes that allow quite a bit of movement. There was enough for us (Mrs. Manor is 5’8”). With solo trikes, boom adjustment usually means shortening or lengthening the chain. No chain work is necessary with the TP.
Normal twists and turns of the road are easy, and while the TP doesn’t maneuver as quickly as a solo trike, it works well. The only real issue with the tandem is u-turns, which take a bit of planning and an eye for distances. Even if one ends up against a curb, all the captain need do is unclip and the tandem easily pushes backward.
How fast is it? Not nearly as fast as the Sportsters. The 20” wheels impose their own speed limit, as does the weight, though it’s far from slow. Mrs. Manor was delighted to discover our rides have a substantially higher average speed than her solo rides, which was a large part of the reason we bought it. Downhill speeds, as with all trikes, can be very fast indeed, and particularly on long, steep hills, uphill speeds can be slow indeed. On the flat, without significant headwinds, 18-20 MPH cruising speeds are doable. Obviously, for much lighter, stronger and younger riders, greater cruising speeds would be possible, but it’s fast enough for us.
Because of the long frame, it’s important to have a smooth pedal stroke. Particularly for the stoker, anything less translates to a “bouncy” feeling in the frame. It’s not dangerous or disquieting, but a useful feedback mechanism for smooth pedaling. This is a good thing for Mrs. Manor who is only a few months past a knee replacement.
The color this year is a metallic copper that looks more striking in person than in photographs. My only gripe is no touch up paint is available. As with all TerraTrike machines, the quality of design, assembly and parts choices is high. When our idlers wear out, we’ll get T-Cycle idlers—the best available—but for the time being the factory idlers work well.
Mrs. Manor wears hearing aids, but we’re sufficiently close to hear each other as long as the wind isn’t too heavy. Riders are far enough apart so the stoker doesn’t get overheated. Her handlebars are only for hanging on, and had sufficient adjustment for her needs. With the relatively low ground clearance, this is not an off-road machine, though it could handle relatively flat, gravel or hard packed surfaces on a limited basis.
Final Thoughts: The Tandem Pro meets our needs. We’re not touring riders, but with appropriate panniers—T-Cycle makes them too, and Terra Trike’s site has a great accessory section–it would be a formidable touring machine. We fully expect to be able to hand it, and our Sportsters, down to our younger relatives when we join the choir invisible.
Oh yes, one can expect loads of pointing, smiles, delighted expressions, “mommy, look(s)” and honking when riding a Tandem Pro. That’s nice too. They’re sufficiently rare to really catch the eye.
The folks at TerraTrike are always friendly and helpful, and so are the folks at Angletech, which is the finest recumbent shop in this part of the country. They sell several Tandem Pros per year.
TerraTrike also makes the Rover Tandem. At about $3400 dollars, it’s much cheaper than the Tandem Pro, and it works, but it’s not as capable. Still, it may be a viable choice for some.
The Tandem Pro is a top quality machine that will give a lifetime of service. If it meets your needs, or even your desires, it’s a worthy place to put inflationary dollars.